In June of last year, Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) introduced H.R 2575 the Save American Workers Act of 2013. This bill changes the definition of a full time employee from 30 hours to 40 hours (or 174 hours a month for full-time equivalents) for the purposes of a required coverage offered under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) Employer shared responsibility provisions.
Changing the definition of a full time employee from 30 hours to the traditional 40 hours will help prevent employers from slashing employee hours in order to reduce exposure to the health reform law’s employer shared responsibility requirements. Under the law as currently written, employers with 50 or more full time equivalent employees must provide all employees who work an average of 30 hours or more a week with either a health coverage offer or a financial penalty. HHS regulations have also applied the 30 hour as full-time definition to the SHOP exchange and some carriers are extending it to the regular small group market too. Employers large and small are finding it difficult to comply with this change to the traditional definition of a full-time employee, and the extensive tracking of employee hours it requires.
This provision not only makes it harder for employers to run their businesses and for Americans to put food on the table, it also ultimately stalls the economic growth of the country. Those who do not have access to employer coverage, including those workers with reduced hours, will have the option of buying individual coverage, including, if income eligible, subsidized coverage through the new state marketplaces. However with working hours being cut, workers from these companies will have less money in their pockets overall, making health insurance even more difficult to afford, especially if they are not eligible for a federal tax credit.
Since day one of open enrollment, NAHU has been actively working to address several outstanding problems with the exchanges and healthcare.gov. In December, NAHU CEO Janet Trautwein sent a letter to President Obama detailing many of these concerns. In February, NAHU members attending Capitol Conference circulated a bipartisan letter on Capitol Hill that was drafted by Representatives John Carney (D-DE) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) and had 73 bipartisan co-sponsors. It urged HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to make several simple but necessary improvements to healthcare.gov.
NAHU has worked extensively with various members of Congress on the possibility and potential content of a legislative change. Last month Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced two bills that address several of our outstanding exchange and enrollment concerns. The first piece of legislation, S. 2175, The Enhancing Access for Agents and Brokers Act, with original cosponsors Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), calls on HHS to adopt key exchange changes that NAHU has been seeking on a regulatory basis for some time. S. 2175 includes establishing a toll-free concierge line for broker enrollment and policy questions, a listing of all certified agents on healthcare.gov, a fix to the NPN issue that has plagued agents from day one of open enrollment, and a requirement that HHS notify the broker community of all policy changes relative to QHPS and exchange enrollment within five business days in layperson’s language, including specific information about how agents and brokers can best help their clients take advantage of any policy or regulatory changes in a timely manner.
The second bill introduced by Senator Landrieu, S. 2173, The CHOICE Act, will make improvements to the direct-enrollment process for independent agents, including making improvements that will allow independent agents better access to web-based entities.
Take action now. Send a letter to your Senator to support S2173 and S2175. And send a letter to your Congressman to support HR 2575.